Although most disability-related airline service failures happen at the gate or on the airplane, sometimes a breakdown in communication is what starts the ball rolling.
Such was the case, when Christine Lester requested a wheelchair to get to her connecting flight at Charles de Gaulle Airport. The breakdown in communication came shortly thereafter, when the wrong special service IATA code was entered in her reservation.
According to an airport spokesperson, the WCHR code – which means that the passenger needs a wheelchair for distance – was used. It became apparent that this was the wrong code for Lester – who uses crutches — when the wheelchair attendant took her to the gate and told her that she would need to take the wheelchair away. Lester told the attendant that the restroom and the snack bar were too far away for her walk, but apparently that made no difference. So. Lester was left to sit at the departure gate for 2 hours and 40 minutes.
The airport apologized to Lester, but held Air France responsible for the incident. Now I don’t know what transpired when Lester requested an airport wheelchair, but somehow there was a miscommunication.
But the miscommunication was exacerbated at the airport when Lesser was abandoned at the gate. It would seem to me that the attendant could have at least radioed for another wheelchair, just in case Lester needed to use the restroom. But she didn’t.
It’s frustrating to see a situation like this, because it could have been easily prevented. Granted, a communication breakdown caused the problem, but good customer service from the attendant could have really turned things around.
Hopefully this won’t happen again!